I may wear the clothes of a dead man, but I feel like a chap with a new lease on life. Do you understand? I am an advocate of dead man's clothes: vintage clothing, or classic used clothing, in other words the kind of smelly Tweed, musty flannel, and mouldy brogue that remind one of one's wonderful London youth. Invigorating!
As previously disclosed, I used to visit Kensington Market and Camden Town in the 1980s on a quite frequent basis, where I picked up old Tweed jackets and battered brogues from Lobb, amongst other things. There's nothing quite like the spectacle of a skinny, floppy-haired 17-year old boy trying to look 77. What was I thinking?
We often paired our Tweed and brogues with old Levi 501s, probably inspired by Nick Kamen adverts, which somewhat lessened the fogey chic aspect and added a certain street edge. My chums were interested in used 501s, invariably torn and frayed in strategic locations, but stained denim was for me a step too far. In New York we would troll vintage shops downtown, where the selection was comparatively poor, and where old army greatcoats and punk hairstyles briefly became the rage, but eventually my passion for hunting rare books eclipsed my interest in old clothes.
The market for vintage clothing is still going strong. In the present economic environment vintage makes sense. I do discern a reluctance on the part of some, borne, I think, of middle class snobbishness or hygiene concerns. It should not matter, but it does. More for the aficionados, I suppose. The online marketplace eBay, if you have not heard of it, is a wonderful source for vintage items, as are specialists such as Hornets of Kensington and Savvy Row, both of whom have websites with lip-smacking photos of Tweed, chalk stripe, and evening wear. David Saxby's Old Hat is another gem. If you know of others, please do let me know at once.
We live in a system where clothing--and ultimately human beings themselves--are dispensable, replaceable, and interchangeable. Nothing has lasting value, and nothing is valuable in and of itself, worthy of preservation. After all, we can always buy more cheap consumer shit from China, or import more "Americans" and "Europeans" from the third world. It's an unsustainable arrangement. Buying vintage classic clothing not only reduces waste, but in a small way, I think, it also pays tribute to the craftsmanship and values of our people, those who came before us, our ancestors. And who knows? Perhaps one day our own national-domestic industries will be revived, and we can walk hand-in-hand together again, in our own land, through glorious fields of Tweed.
Photograph: © Hornets